Over the centuries, man has developed wonderful and intricate instruments that would delight our ears and pluck at our heartstrings. But what if you could somewhat undo all that and replace them with marbles? Sounds insane? That is somewhat the quest that musician cum inventor Martin Molin of Swedish musical act Wintergatan has taken upon himself to conquer, a quest that took him 14 months to finish. Fortunately for us, and maybe for him, the end result is just as astounding as the concept of a marble-driven music machine is.
To be fair, Molin didn’t exactly reinvent the wheel, so to speak. He just took the wheel apart and reassembled it with a different set of spokes. In this case, he took a bass guitar, vibraphone bars, and percussion pads and assembled them into a single, monstrous contraption. But that’s not the most interesting or bizarre part of the Marble Machine, which is named as such for a reason. While ultimately driven by a wheel turned by human hands, the actual music is produced by marbles, 2,000 in total, dropping over the bits and pieces like a well calculated but medieval invention dreamed up by a mad genius.
The musician, Molin in this case of course, cranks up the wheel, which brings hundreds of those marbles to the top. At the push of a lever, they begin their journey to the edge, dropping on vibraphone bars, bass guitar strings, pads or cymbals, depending on the piece to be played.
No written description will be enough to describe both the wonder and the peculiarity of the Marble Machine. And how best to describe a musical machine than with a video of the machine producing music.
It definitely looks like a lot of trouble to go through for an admittedly enchanting but still odd musical instrument Frankenstein. Still, we’ve seen worse. We’ve also seen how creative some people get in “fake” virtual worlds. So why not a real, physical genius invention. And in case you feel inclined to downplay the amount of work and planning that has gone into the Marble Machine, Wintergartan fortunately also has a “The Making Of” video to show off.